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Oi! Hands off...
The bravest gamers in the land
Are Captain Billikins and his band.
That's Boozy Ben and Beardy Tone,
Desperate Dan and Cheesy John.
Not overlooking the librarian specs
Of female trouper, Sneezy Bex
One Friday night, Beardy Tone said
"Now Evil Art is put to bed,
My kitchen table, quite charming
Shall play host to a bout of farming!"
Sneezy Bex was even whizzier
She was up for a bit of Knizia
John made the rules sound gritty
As he laboured through Blue Moon City.
After many torturous dispatchings
He opened the bag of spicy scratchings.
Boozy Ben was winning 'Gric
A generous draft gave him quite a pick
While Tone wasted cards aplenty
His tableau remarkably empty
Desperate Dan tried a combo;
Forgot to develop, what a dumbo!
Billikins said "Well, I'll be blowed!
I fancy a game of Glass Road."
While he perused the rules docket
Cheesy John opened Stephenson's Rocket.
Beardy Tone said "I remember this!"
But his memories were somewhat remiss
For greater grew his perturbation
During John's rules explanation.
"It's complexing, bemusing, what a pain"
Tone was heard to complain.
Boozy Ben was not appalled:
That was just the game HE recalled!
Much accursed was the fool
Who designed Tony's bottle-opening tool
But eventually the real ale flowed
And Boozy Ben won at Glass Road.
Bex had plenty of time to box and bag it
AND deal a quick game of Braggart!
Ben went to the library seeking games
And returned with the box of Codenames
"Don't draft teams!" said John, fast,
"It saddens the one who is picked last"
Nevertheless, Ben and Tone plowed on,
Picking Bex, Dan, Bill and...John.
The first round went the way of Boddle -
His words were a relative doddle.
Two big thinkers took up the role of spies
And furrowed their brows and crinkled their eyes
It took Dan and Bill so long to say
That we found quite another game to play
"Films with Fish!" went up the cry
Eel Cid, and Prawn On The 4th of July
Shouting and laughing so uproarious
It made Codenames somewhat laborious
I haven't got a clue who won
Amid the celebration of fish pun.
The bravest gamers in the land
Are Captain Billikins and his band
That's Boozy Ben and Beardy Tone
Desperate Dan and Cheesy John
And into the night shot many flecks
From the nose of sneezy Bex.
Oi! Hands off...
Our first week (hopefully of only two) away from the Lion started badly with two cancellations. With Becky away on a jolly, it panned out to just be John and me. But, as he said, sometimes 2P games are the best sort, and we set out to prove it!
Shanghaien was our starting point. My preliminary rules scan shouted '2-player Las Vegas', but it transpired very quickly that the game's primary element wasn't the area control but the timing, and the fact you'd often want to call a round after one bad dice roll for your opponent. John and I thought it was thoroughly excellent, even after an action-packed tied game, and I can see it getting plenty of runouts with Becky in future.
We followed up with another new game. Indeed our first four tonight were new to us both. Tides of Time is a micro-2P-drafting game, which looked very promising. It played well, and there was plenty of agonising over various decisions, but my overall impression is that there wasn't as much variety in the cards (about a third of the cards are just mirrors of the others) as I'd anticipated. It wasn't terrible, by any means, but it definitely was an anticlimax after the highlights of Shanghaien.
Moving onto chunkier stuff, we pulled out the rules for another Michael Schacht game - Felinia - and got stuck in. The game proved to be a rather un-Schacht-like mishmash of mechanics, but it also had plenty of designer trademarks: knife-edge timing, tight economy, and spacial area control. In some ways, this could be thought of as Schacht's answer to worker placement, and was only let down by the appalling colour scheme. John's set-collection for the scoring always seemed to be a step ahead of mine and I never really challenged him.
Goldland had earned the honour of long-term shelf-sitter, but it seems to be well-spoken-of, and - as I said at the time - it's a Kramer, so it can't be all bad. Certainly the presentation is very swish, with the central tiles being lavishly illustrated and there's plenty of good chunky cardstock throughout. John found the Carcassonne-adventure elements to be a bit dated and immature but it didn't stop him winning as I ran out of useful tooling and couldn't make it to the temple.
Back to some familiar territory. Taluva was a game I'd virtually given up upon after a run of indefatigability from John, but the pause had had an unexpected bonus of causing him to forget most of the rules. Hence, we both had chance to rediscover the relative freedom that this game offers and its outstanding beauty when completed. As we built a relatively compact island, I forewent tower-building and finished the game relatively comfortably on huts and temples.
John had been having free choice for a few games, so he positively exhorted me to pick something. I went to an old favourite, Patchwork, and was surprised to find John hadn't played before. We soon changed that and he succumbed to its brilliance, even requested a second game. After a miserable -13 points in the first game, I was pleased to break 20 in the second: the two games were an interesting illustration of the subtle ways in which Patchwork has so much repeatability in the tile layouts.
To close, a handful of rounds of my classic copy of Cube Quest (aka KingBrick). I'm not ENTIRELY sure that John really bought into the game in all its glorious dexterity madness, but he did beat me a couple of times, and was keen to start incorporating the expansion bricks, which is a rarity among my other opponents. Indeed, it was my rash decision to go all flamboyant with Ninjas and Assassins (just say no, KingBrickers) that led to my downfall at least once.
Eight games of a night? No problem with two. A bit of a mix of affection for what we did play, but we definitely uncovered at least one rough diamond.
Oi! Hands off...
We had opted not to play a big 6P opener this week and had settled nicely into two hefy 3P games. Tony was still explaining the finer points of La Granja and Dan had joined the Bateson in a voyage of Ora et Labora discovery. John the landlord wandered amiably into the room and dropped the small bombshell that the games room would not be available for the next two weeks. I could see the answer to the next question a mile away, but I carefully advanced the suggestion that perhaps we'd be welcome in the bar. Apparently not.
So, for the first time in six years, the RoWBGers had to make some relocation plans. Next week wouldn't be too much of a problem; I was already making plans for a small collection of gamers to christen my new games room. But the general tone of the conversation was of potential eviction from the pub that we have made our own: we shall have to endure these uncertain times and see.
I've no idea how La Granja went, but it sounded hard work and convoluted. I've played it once and come down firmly lukewarm on it. Hard work and slick practice has also got our playtime of Ora et Labora down to 120 minutes, so my victory coincided tidily with the end of proceedings at the other table. A fairly solid one, too: after half a dozen plays, the game isn't quite as 'sandboxy' as it first appears, and I've started to be able to tease threads of product-chaining and timing out of the chaos. But it will take a while: good job I enjoy it so much, really.
Tony proclaimed barely 45 minutes to 'picking up the boy' time, so we put the tables together for the evergreen Citadels. No sooner had we got stuck into the third round when Tony's phone buzzed, and his 45 minutes was swiftly reduced to 10 or so. We played the round out for the benefit of Benedict, anyway, given that he was having enough fun sticking knives into Dan's back.
It was panning out to be something of a frustrating night: a dozen irritations and nagging uncomfortabilities, none of our own making. So we close out with some hyperactive dice chucking in Risk Express. This proved much to everyone's liking: Dan and Becky warring over Asia while I was reduced to a sad little tinpot African dictatorship. But I suppose that was only fair revenge for my Ora et Labora victory.
Oi! Hands off...
Only two games last week, but we blew that way out of the park this week by managing to get no fewer than eight to the table between the six of us. Becky and I were both doing our 'birthday games' and cheating a little, because Friday had split between the two of us, but were a little lacklustre on 6P games that we wanted to play. Luckily, Tony had the perfect solution in the form of Mysterium.
For the first time, I got to be the ghost, and - I like to think - played the part to po-faced perfection, aside from an occasional puff of air down the napes of various necks as I wandered around the table. The rest of the table were somewhat less than sparkling, with only Gentleman Dave (and one inspired moment from Becky) getting the right line. Nobody at all got any correct guesses in Round 1, and Tony and Becky were still dicking around trying to muster their first correct guess in Round 4. Tony had managed to completely talk himself out of the correct answer (believing, erroneously, that he'd already picked it), so I magnanimously gave them a 'Free Bye'. Little good it did, and two rounds later it was all over. Benedict and Dave had managed to romp through their three clues but Becky was still faffing about trying to guess what room she was in. And she didn't even get that one right.
It must have warmed the Tony's cockles to see Becky requesting a duo of Boydell games for her birthday treat, and they settled down with Dave to play first a session of Guilds of London (leaving out the proto-expansion due to Dave relative newbieness) and secondly a
hearty game of Scandaroon remarkably quick Snowdonia. They were all done with the latter in 40 minutes flat, which must be something of a record. Dogged by horrible weather conditions, all the scores were in the 60s, with Becky just about grabbing a lead.
Meanwhile, my treat was to get a couple of those 'not played yet' boxes out of the way. John is always amenable to learning new games, and Benedict certainly came good in the opening session of Valdora, romping away to a huge win.
It wasn't the losing to Benedict (honest!), but I was a bit disappointed by Valdora. I had heard good things, and some of the Schacht trademarks were there in force, but the whole thing just felt a little bit flabby. Like all good games, there were plenty of elements there to build yourself an optimisation strategy, but the interaction just wasn't strong or interesting enough to complement it. On the whole, when it comes to Schacht games. It will get another try, I'm sure, but it didn't have the tight puzzle-solving feel of Zooloretto or Industry.
Our second new box was far from a disappointment. I am a sucker for the regular sales in The Works for remaindered less-well-known games, and have picked up several personal favourites through this route, including Furstenfeld, Cuba and Hamburgum. My latest acquisition was Madame Ching; although it looked simplistic, I have learned never to take Cathala's games at face value. And I was right: what initially seemed to be a simple card-climbing mechanism drove a variety of interesting on-board stuff. This time the player interaction was spot on: good timing is paramount here in order to make sure you can nip in to various bonuses before the others. The balance of press-your-luck and hand management also appeals, and there is some tidy artwork to pull the whole thing together. I say Madame Ching is much under-recognised.
Anyway, I hoarded some nice hand cards which got me a good 8 points or so, but John just about pipped me on the line. The encounter cards were an interesting feature: although they might appear swingy at first, then once you know people are collecting defences, the attacks become a whole lot less appealing.
We were having one of those nights where - try as we might - we couldn't synchronise the two tables, no matter how hard we tried. With Snowdonia just underway on the other table and not due (or so we thought!) to finish for a good 50 minutes, I saw prime opportunity to reintroduce both John and Benedict to Guildhall. Both had played very occasionally before, but once I got them stuck in, they were making 'oh yes - I like this' sort of noises, so we got up to speed quickly. I have been playing a lot of 2P Guildhall recently with Becky, but it was nice to have the extra choices, and John took me right down to the wire in the endgame. Although, to be fair, most every game of Guildhall goes right to the wire. I haven't decided whether this is a point in its favour or not.
Becky's table - now reduced to trying to fill up fifteen minutes or so - had had time for a couple of games of Coloretto, and then we all crowded around the tiny table in the corner for the ultimate birthday treat: Dobble. A session report would, as ever, be superfluous: suffice to say we spent a bit of time crescendoing to the highlight of any Dobble session, two tense and prickly rounds of Hot Potato.
Oi! Hands off...
It will probably not have gone unnoticed that Becky and I are undergoing one of life's little upheavals at the minute. But surely we wouldn't be available to play games on completion day, after eight hours lugging around heavy boxes and shouting at solicitors?
7:15pm saw us sitting in glassy-eyed weariness in the back room of the White Lion. Becky was definitely only in 'for a quick drink and then home', but I had resolved to stay the night. For the first time since the club's inauguration, I had no games with me (all packed!), so was reliant on the offerings of Tony (who had brought his usual selection of stuff he wanted to play), John (who had brought an arcane and bizarre bagful) and Gary (who contributed some crowdpleasers which we unfairly ignored).
As it was, we had time for two good-weight games before the impending sleep overtook me. Our first was The Networks, a theme very reminiscent of a rework of Village Tale that I did a few years ago, only with better humour and art. What was quite interesting about the game's economy is the way it produced rises and falls in success. John hared out of the blocks this one, but was shortly overhauled by me before my money foundered just before the finish and let Tony creep over the line. Gary had made a really slow start but motored back into contention in the final rounds too.
The Networks was intriguing, and there was plenty to like, including a carefully-measured economic engine. But it didn't quite click with me on some level: I'm finding it hard to put my finger on why, but it could be a lack of asymmetry or 'special abilities' combined with the luck of the draw. It's just all a little more sterile and less zany than I would expect from a surface reading. Will play again, though.
We finished with a game that I probably could have played in my sleep if necessary: Puerto Rico. It's getting real hard to beat John these days, and he put together the table's only Tobacco engine, together with a Harbour to net a sizeable 55 points. Gary, in his first game, also built a Harbour and would have been all set to charge through until - unusually - the VP chip supply ended the game. Earlier in the game I had hummed and harred at great length over starting off on Coffee, and it was justified humming, because Sugar would have been manifestly a better choice in retrospect. Tony pipped both Gary and I into second by a single point.
It was an awkward time of the evening - too late to play anything of a decent weight, but too early to break out the fillers. Given the stresses of the day, we saw fit to call an early finish so I could go and make use of my new bedroom.
Oi! Hands off...
The slew of family commitments in August don't necessarily lend themselves to big turnouts (although do I remember double figures last year?), and there were just three in attendance. John and I settled ourselves into the cosy wingback chairs in the White Lion's back room, and we opted for a quick opener of Coloretto in the half-hearted hope that someone else might turn up (I had had a couple of vague promises of an appearance).
As ever, Coloretto was a delight, and I squeaked the narrowest of wins 24-23-23. But it was to be the last game I won that night, and poor old John went away completely empty-handed too.
Becky's triumphant parade began with Keyflower. John hadn't played any of the expansions before, so we dealt in the Merchants expansion, which I find preferable to the slightly-clumsy Farmers expansion (although the animals are cute...). It was a really fascinating demonstration of how Keyflower strategises, as from a resource-heavy strategy, we all branched out in noticeably different directions, to the extent where there was virtually no interaction during the winter season at all. I'd put together a stack of makeable contracts, while John was going all expansion-crazy and Becky was saving up meeples for a big winter-tile score. The scoring was diverse and high, with Becky coming within a shade of broaching the magic 100 points in victory. For me, it was an excellent demonstration of how you don't always need the most meeples to win, although I'm not denying it is generally a strong tactic.
I had fancied a run at Viticulture, but the other two gave it 'meh' sort of looks and plumped instead for Artificium. This is one of my bargain-bin purchases from the latest run of sales at The Works; Becky and I had given it a run at 2-player and found it pleasant enough, so it was time to scale up.
The first game of Artificium was lacklustre, John not coming into the right cards early on and failing to manage his hand, and Becky tying things up far too early. But the second went down to a thrilling finish, me clearing my entire board to scrape together the pennies to hire a knight, only for Becky to overtake me on the endgame cash scoring. John is probably right when he says there is too much luck of the draw in this game, but I don't think there is quite as much as is apparent on first viewing, and a bum-squeaky finish such as this deserves some measure of respect. I wouldn't want to play it with the 6P that the game is allegedly capable of accommodating, though.
Our closer, almost inevitably looking at this year's calendar so far, was Wizard. This game is starting to transcend to a really tactical high now Becky and John are up to speed with trick-play, and the matter of timing has become absolutely key. Hanging back can be almost as risky as taking all your tricks up front, and my best played hands absolutely necessitated a trick-by-trick plan, the way it should be. However, I was cursed by at least three genuinely unlucky moments (a low winner, a failed odds-on finesse and an apparent absence of Wizards) and slumped to a miserable third place. No surprises for guessing who won, but at least Ian had the decency to close up the bar before she broke 400.
Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:49 pm
Oi! Hands off...
The observant will have noticed an ongoing absence among the ranks of the Ross-on-Wye regulars, that of our regular enigma wrapped in a furry hat: Bill. But, after some four months of mysterious 'other commitments', he'd planned his big return for tonight. Unfortunately, the whims of the gods meant that my inbox was full of: 'sorry, not this week', and as it turned out, there was just two of us!
But never mind - there are a few games that are perfectly cut out for Bill and me, and Polarity is one of them. Everyone else is lukewarm on this game, but we find it a delight in its creativity and combination of magnets with area control. Unfortunately, Bill was somewhat off-colour this week (perhaps I shouldn't have deprived him of a warm-up), and neither game went to the normal wire-taut finish as I won rather too easily.
Our main event, which indeed took us up to closing time thanks to a not atypical misinterpretation of the rules, was Ora & Labora. Unfortunately, I managed to mix up the 'long 2P' rules with the 'short 2P' buildings, which meant that the buildings ran out long before the actions did. But, boy, were the scores high! We split the stone generating buildings and the brewing ones, which is only right and proper, but it was good village placement (including a personal-best 32 off one village) that gave me the edge by around 16 points.
I've been putting together a run of Ora & Labora games of late, and I'm finding it most pleasing, particularly as we run the game time down to manageable lengths. It is still way too sprawling and uncompetitive to challenge Agricola, but the crazy Le Havre-esque glut of resources and sprawling freeform layout are very exciting. I worry that, once we've seen all the buildings in both variants, it will become old, but there's a good 15 plays (at least) left before that happens.
Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:15 pm
Oi! Hands off...
Half-day Fridays is a blessing. I'm usually home from work in time to do the weekly shop, pack the games bag and pop myself a crafty Friday-afternoon beer well before 4:30pm and Mrs B's arrival home. This week I was doubly blessed: SHE had all of Friday off and the weekly shop was already de-bagged and in the fridge. I popped myself a beer (well, why change habits?) and loaded up the games bag for the expected five cerebral challengers (well, four and John, leastways). No sooner had I finished, then Boydell 'pinged' me via Facebook: "Bringing Benedict and Peter". I sighed and repacked, with the aid of another beer.
But never mind, for 7-players was a perfect opportunity to get down a game that had been lingering unplayed for way too long: the mysterious and crafty Heimlich & Co. Don't believe a word about this being only a family game. It's pure bluff and bravado, and I took a rare opportunity to unpack it all ready for the first arrivals. I had decided the 'deduction' variant was a must, but hadn't banked on how BLOODY HARD the deduction would be with a tableful of experienced old duplicitous so-and-so's. No-one managed to get more than a single character right on the first round, won by Benedict while entertainingly - albeit unwittingly - abusing his father's spy. The second was played with a lot more attention and false accusation (the way it is supposed to be done) and no less than THREE correct deduction gave me a second place behind John.
With no less than three different versions of Agricola (Classic, New and yet-to-be-released 'Family') in attendance, it was only a matter of time until Dan, Tony and I gravitated towards a farming table. Benedict is also rapidly gathering a taste for it and joined us for a agrarian foursome. We plumped for Dan's 'classic' edition (not even Ani- or Vegi-meeples!) and set to distributing cards and boards while Tony assisted the other table in choosing a game. Both John and Peter have firmly denounced Agricola, so they turned down even the Family game, but consensus was eventually reached in Guilds Of London, a firm favourite of Becky's, even if I confess to still being somewhat on the fence.
It was a food-rich game for the merry agriculturists, Benedict having some sort of fishing combo and repeatedly exploiting the Start Player to my expense. Nevertheless, I had a Manufacturer and did the best I could with it until Tony snaffled the BMW out from under my nose. I dumped no end of half-decent cards onto the table with my Merchant, too: perhaps the first time I've ever used him properly in anger. It might have made all the difference were we both not beaten to first place by Dan, who had grown to 4 family members very early, supported by a quick ranching operation.
In the denouement, it turned out that Benedict not only had made zero use of his Patron, but also had an unused Perpetual Student in his hand, so I gave him a brief lecture in how to spot combos that mean you won't need to worry about feeding your family for the rest of the game. He is determined to improve, god bless him.
Guilds had not yet finished, so we entertained a brief filler in the shape of Port Royal, much to Benedict's delight as he discovered the joy of Pinasse puns (oh wise youth). He also put together a trio of the guys who give you extra money for seeing five-in-the-queue, which could have been a game-winner had not Dan wrapped it up shortly afterwards. With thoughts of a group filler, we turned to the other table, only to see them noses deep in Wizard. Knowing the personalities involved, we left them to it.
Instead, we closed with Smash Up. I hadn't expected this to be to Tony's tastes so was surprised to hear him volunteer it, and we all chuckled at our opening decks. Apart from me, having drawn two of the more underwhelming races and being lumbered with Ghost-nados for the rest of the evening.
The big Smash Up misconception, which I will cheerfully hold up my hand in succumbing to, is that it is a light, frothy speedy filler. After 35 minutes, and with closing time elapsed, we began to learn that it absolutely wasn't. I don't normally link to Tony's blog, but there is a lot of sensible analysis in the comments about how we approached it the wrong way. I'd like to think that it is salvageable with a bit of an attitude adjustment, perhaps some careful deck selection (rather than randomising) and the eminently sensible suggestion of reducing the number of bases by two.
Becky, keen to get home early ahead of our day of gaming tomorrow and chastened by being thrashed at Wizard by card-sharp Peter, was making sighing noises and tapping at her watch by now, so Dan wrapped up another game and we packed up and went home.
Opinions on Smash Up? I'd be pleased to hear them.
Oi! Hands off...
After a short - but friendly - reprimand from John last week, we didn't attempt to take up our fireside table, and instead hurried into the meeting room where I spent a little time rearranging furniture to take advantage of one of the comfy wingback chairs. Barman Ian even popped in a little later to see if we wanted to move back into the main bar - perhaps he is finally getting used to us!
Gary and John were both in attendance for the second week, and Gary threw Biblios onto the table as a warm-up exercise. Becky and I have played a LOT of this, whereas John is historically (and hysterically) awful. But Gary warmed to his task well, and took Becky down to a tie-break, winning with five Gold in hand. True to form, John scored precisely nothing and declined a second game in his own inimitable fashion ("No. We won't be playing that again.")
There's a predictability to asking Becky to pack the games bag of a Friday. You can more or less guarantee that a few favourites will be packed, certainly Airlines Europe and Lancaster. Still, with the New Laws expansion still to be fully explored, it definitely met with widespread interest. But, amateurs that we are, we've still got a thing or two to learn about stopping Becky running rampage in this game, and her victory was virtually nailed to the wall by the end of Round 3. Somehow, she managed to clock up bonuses for Biggest Army, Most Tapestries AND still had the joint-most nobles. There must have been a good 30-point gap by the time she'd finished - how demoralising!
We are devoted fans of 'the classics' at Ross-on-Wye, and it's rare to hear a word said against El Grande, Modern Art or Princes Of Florence. I'm even partial to a game of Catan from time to time. But there was one SdJ winner of which we knew nothing - Andreas Seyfarth's mighty but simple Manhattan. Luckily, I had acquired a copy in trade so we could sample its delights.
The rules are simplicity itself - play a card from a hand of four and place a skyscraper level (from your pre-selected six) in the corresponding position from the perspective of your side of the board. Some simple area-control rules negate ties. You get 1 point per building, 2 points per region and 3 for topping the outright tallest building on the board. But as we found, there is an intriguing amount to explore even within this simple rule-set, and some pretty vicious interplay inevitably results. John won the first game at a canter while we were still finding our feet, but the second was much more tense before Becky just about edged it. It was all very enjoyable in an undemanding sort of way.
To finish off, we introduced Gary to Santiago de Cuba, and quickly demonstrated a couple of key strategies (the VP's for money early exchange and a bit of dice denial). However, all the screwage buildings had come up under a single colour, so it was probably more expedient to play the game properly, which we did, settling only for repeatedly shafting John out of being able to ship any oranges. Gary was quick to learn though, and two well-timed exports late in the game gave him a 3-point win over Becky, and another opportunity to best her at one of her favourites. He left us with a glowing review of Santiago de Cuba and was last seen trying to pick up a copy on Facebook.
We still had time for two chunky closers before kicking-out time. Game of Trains met with lukewarm response from John, which is only fair, for it is a lukewarm game at best, rescued with a bit of whimsical art which doesn't quite go far enough in encompassing some geek pastiches. It seemed rather anticlimactic to me, too, compared to last time we played: I think I may have to check that we read the rules correctly. Push It was more successful than I dared hope, even if it did take John a dozen rounds to get his first points on the board. I won at both, just to give myself some modest sense of pride for the evening.
Oi! Hands off...
It's a rare occasion when the weather is so gratifyingly warm that one feels obliged to turn up in shorts and sandals. Tony wore a pair of Crocs a couple of weeks ago, and I remissly neglected to record the fact for posterity and/or pisstaking. Tonight was most definitely 'summer gear' temperature, though, and three of us arrived attired in various degrees of British ineptitude.
Due to various reasons, I also had my phone with me, so you get photos this week as well!
Parking my car round the corner in the road intriguingly called Fisherman's Reach (surely I'm not the only one who thinks this sounds like a sexual position?), my first act was to proffer Gary a crisp £20 note in exchange for the copy of Paperback he procured for me about a month ago at the Expo. Although I've no doubt Becky's eyes will roll at another word game, it looks charming stuff: a direct combination of BuyWord and Dominion. Gary, like Becky, isn't the wordgame player, so it stayed safe in shrink tonight.
We had a much more tempting 3P offering in the bag in the form of Ora et Labora. After spending an arduous 35 minutes being taught this by one Mr Clyne, the rules are actually simplicity themselves, and I dispensed them to John and Gary in ten minutes flat, forgetting only one or two important ones (notably the bit about the Prior). But it didn't really disadvantage anyone until we remembered a few rounds in. The question "do you want to be French or Irish?" brought the response from John: "does anyone actually ever answer 'French' to that question?" and off we went.
Despite having to explain village scoring at least three times before we built the first ones, both John and Gary managed a decent economy. John bought the Spinner (a pet favourite of mine) and Gary exploited getting into stone. I was struggling for money throughout and resorted to paying off Gary's monks to do most of the work, a job made easier when I built the distillery. I was pleased to erect a Hilltop Village at the end, but it still left me seven points behind John in a low-scoring game. Everyone pronounced themselves satisfied with the game, but as Gary said, there's far too much to think about to ever take it seriously. Perhaps that's the hidden genius to the sprawling Rosenberg games such as this and Caverna.
We cut the peat and scatter
We'd also got finished well inside two hours, which gave us time for a decent mid-length game before Gary was done. John took on the challenge of teaching him Roll For The Galaxy. Or rather, he plonked RftG on the table and I took up the mantle of teaching it to both, also throwing in the Ambition expansion because that was how I learned the game.
Gary was quick on the uptake and quickly building a military culture, working hard to squeeze out a strong 6-development early on. John managed to better this, building his second 6-pointer around midgame and cruised to a whopping 70 points. My board was heavily geared towards consuming goods, and I tried to exploit a succession of good blue dice. Unfortunately, 'Explore' actions were few and far between and my economy (and building supply) dried up while I was hoarding chips. I don't think I've ever played this one with three before - it was tough!
The neatest dice storage in the Galaxy.
Gary scarpered with aliens and friars on his mind, and John and I finished by celebrating Isle Of Skye's Kennerspiel victory. The broch scoring tile is one of the most lucrative in the game and I exploited it heavily in a low-scoring game which I funded with plenty of whisky barrels and setting prices that were tantalisingly out of John's range.
I forgot to take an in-play photo of this rather pretty game. Tony's better at this sort of thing.
Two of our 'must play more often' games tonight. It's a shame one of them is only any good with 3P. And that John always wins at the other.
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